(b. ca. 1455, Utrecht, d. ca. 1490, Mainz)
Woodcut, 251 x 191 mm
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich
Woodcut illustration in printed books flourished in Germany during the last quarter of the fifteenth century. The major presses established in Bamberg, Augsburg, Ulm, Basel, Strasbourg, Speier, Mainz, Cologne, Nuremberg, and Leipzig turned out a great variety of texts with illustrations ranging from the classics to nature books and satirical or moralising treatises. One of the most original publication was Bernhard von Breydenbach's 'Sanctae peregrinationes' (Holy Pilgrimages), issued in Mainz in 1486 by the Utrecht artists and printer Erhard Reuwich.
Breydenbach, an aristocrat with considerable means, had made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1483-84. Reuwich accompanied him as his personal artist to record the various sites and peoples. The resulting travelogue, printed upon Breydenbach's return, contains Reuwich's illustrations. The present plate the exotic animals believed to have been seen by Reuwich, but that were, for the most part, fanciful hybrids designed to satisfy Western beliefs and interests. The unicorn figures prominently among them.